“If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides.” Philemon 1:17-19
I remember years ago, long enough that our eldest child was only about one year old, a Kirby vacuum sales man was at our house working to make a sale. He’d done all the demonstrating and had cleaned part of the floor, using those filter sheets they use, instead of the bag, so that we could see just how much dirt he was getting out of the carpet.
In this case we’d just moved into the house and hadn’t properly vacuumed the floor yet so the amount of dirt being collected was substantial.
What he said next made both Cheryl and I laugh. He took that soiled filter pad in his hand and he said, “Imagine you toddler daughter trying to walk and just falling face first into all this dirt.”
He knew that nothing was more important than the health and welfare of our baby girl to us and he was using all our love for her to increase the likelihood of our saying, “Yes,” to the purchase of a vacuum cleaner.
Likewise, Paul is leaving no avenue untried in his efforts to influence Philemon into choosing to receive Onesimus in the manner that Paul wants him received.
The stakes are much bigger for Paul than they were for that vacuum salesman. If we said, “No,” to the vacuum he was out some time and effort only but if Philemon said, “No,” and chose to give Onesimus the justice the law allowed, Paul would lose at least one friend and Onesimus might lose his life.
So Paul leverages his relationship with Philemon. “If you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.”
Then he tells Philemon to put whatever debt Onesimus owes onto Paul’s account. It’s like he’s saying, “Subtract what he owes you from everything you owe me.” And then he drives his last nail home, “And by the way, you owe me you own self just like Onesimus owes you.”
Jesus is calling us to do a life saving work and show his love, and mercy to others. This might be through witnessing or it might be by doing some kind of loving service. Sometimes this call to loving service involves people we don’t like or who have wronged us. Jesus says, “Put their debt on what you owe me and by the way, you owe me everything.”
Jesus has given so much the only way we can ever say, “No,” to what he asks of us is to deny him.
Will you deny him or will you say, “Yes,” and serve as he has called you to?